As the United States continues to reckon with the political implications of the January 6 siege on the Capitol Building in Washington DC, it is increasingly evident that the demonstration and insurrection was also a covid-19 "superspreader event." While we do not know how many of the rioters contracted the virus, there have been 15 cases among members of Congress and their spouses since January 4.
As the 117th Congress commenced, two representatives—Kay Granger and Kevin Brady—tested positive shortly after swearing in on January 3. Both of these individuals received the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine in December, providing further anecdotal evidence that one dose does not provide full immunity. Between January 6 and January 10, four more representatives tested positive, two of whom were confirmed to not have been in the Capitol on January 6.
After rioters entered the Capitol Building, many members of Congress were ushered to a lockdown room, where some were exposed to individuals with covid-19 for several hours, according to Congress' attending physician. A widely circulated video released by Punchbowl News from inside the room showed maskless Republican members of Congress refusing masks offered by Democratic representative Lisa Blunt Rochester.
The outbreak in Congress has now swelled to 15 cases since January 4, five of whom were confirmed to have been held in the same lockdown room as shown in the video. Two are spouses of Congressional members (illustrating ripple effects of transmission), while seven of the cases confirmed receipt of at least the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine—with one having received two doses.
Data from the Congressional covid-19 tracker that I run indicates that the incidence rate in Congress has been consistently higher than national, DC, Maryland and Virginia incidence rates for infection, with over 11 percent of Congress having tested positive since March. Among these, 68 percent of the cases have been among Republicans, despite making up only 49 percent of the total seats in Congress. The higher rate of coronavirus in Congress might be attributable to more accessible testing for members than available to the general public. However, as former Biden spokesperson Kendra Barkoff Lamy and Republican strategist Doug Heye pointed out in October, there is still no mandatory testing for lawmakers and staff.